50 Cent: The Life of a Hunted Man

At twelve, he was a crack dealer. At twenty-three, he was nearly shot to death. Now, at twenty-six, he is a hip-hop ruler. And old rivals want him dead

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Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 919 from April 3, 2003. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone's premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? http://www.rollingstone.com/allaccess ">Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.

It's well past 4 a.m. and 50 Cent's six bodyguards are out in the hallway of the hotel, lazily leaning against the wall or completely asleep. 50 is inside his room, still pulsing with energy. Three hours ago, he finished the biggest show of his career yet, a sold-out date for a crowd of 15,000 at Long Island's Nassau Coliseum. When 50 left the venue, he was surrounded by a ring of bodyguards until he climbed into a bulletproof GMC Suburban. A convoy of nine trucks followed him three minutes down the road to this hotel. Now, as his crew prowls for groupies, 50 is keeping a roomful of friends in stitches, telling stories about his past with the same mix of he-didn't-just-say-that humor and gruesome detail that has made him the most exciting new MC and the coolest new villain in hip-hop since the emergence of Eminem. $ Tonight he'll hold court for three or four hours straight until it's time to leave for a tour date in Baltimore. There's a thin wife-beater covering his chiseled torso and a Yankees hat balanced at an angle atop the white do-rag on his head. His navy-blue bulletproof vest is there on the floor. On records, 50 projects a scary crack dealer, but among friends, the screw face drops. He's animated, a street-corner shit-talker who knows where all the bodies are buried and knows no one can make him shut up. When he gets around to talking about his six-year-old son, Marquise, who appears in the ''Wanksta'' video, his son's mother pulls his picture out of her wallet. She calls him a hip-hop baby. ''One time he was watching TV with another little kid,'' 50 says, ''and a person got shot and died. He said to the other kid, 'That's weak. My daddy got shot a lot of times. He didn't die.''' Everyone laughs. ''I had to tell him that was a special situation,'' he says. ''You're not supposed to get hit that many times and get away!''

Violence has been a constant in the life of twenty-six-year-old 50 Cent --- government name Curtis Jackson, nickname Boo-Boo. His mother, a drug dealer, was killed when he was eight. At twelve, he became a dealer, and was nearly shot to death at twenty-four. His first hip-hop mentor, Jam Master Jay, was killed execution-style last year. Just four days before this very evening, an empty SUV owned by Busta Rhymes was hit with six bullets while parked in front of 50 Cent's manager's office. And right now, there are people who want 50 dead.

Some have suggested that it's other rappers who are trying to kill him, but 50 says hatred from his old competitors in crack dealing has multiplied because of his fame. ''This ain't no rap war,'' he says. ''This have nothin' to do with no rappers. The gangsters don't like that I do whatever the fuck I wanna do. I'm movin around, I'm all over the country, I'm makin' money, I'm a motherfuckin' star. That bothers a nigga. The people that dislike me have nothin' to lose. I'm from the bottom. They're uneasy about still bein' on the bottom.''

50 gets through his days in bulletproof trucks, walking with four to six bodyguards just inches away, ushering him briskly through streets and doors, but his body language and demeanor show him unmoved by the threats on his life. He never refuses to stop for an autograph or a photo request, even when it exposes him to danger. Is he worried about his grandparents, who still live in Queens, New York, in the house where he grew up? He says his reputation is enough to protect them. ''They [his would-be killers] know how I am. Anything go on around there, they need to move everything they love. They mammy, they pappy, they kids, all that shit. That'd start some real nasty shit. And they don't wanna go through that.'' He seems confident he won't be killed, unperturbed by being hunted. ''It don't matter to me.'' he says. ''That shit is not important when you got finances. Do I look uneasy to you?''

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